The Freedom Reflex

Is the food reflex stronger?

The Freedom Reflex

In the midst of all dogs serving for the studies of acquired (or conditioned, as the term of our laboratory goes) salivary reflexes, one turned up in our laboratory last year, that had an exceptional ability. One of the laboratory personnel used this dog for experiment for the first time, and it, unlike others, spontaneously salivated for a month thus rendering it useless for our tests.

As we know from our previous observations, this salivation depends on the general excitability of the animal, and as a rule, it goes side by side with the animal’s short breath. This is an obvious analogy with our state of general excitement, with the only difference that our perspiration is replaced with canine salivation. A brief period of such excitement is observed in many of our dogs in the beginning of experiments, especially the wild and undomesticated ones. However, the dog in question was almost tame, and it got friendly with many of us very quick. This was even stranger that its excitement in the experimental stand did not abate for an entire month.

Then, we took this dog with the special intention to study this peculiarity closer. For two weeks, in the stand, in a separate room, with the experiments on developing the conditioned food reflex underway, the situation remained unchanged. Its conditioned reflex was forming slowly, it was insignificant, and sharply fluctuated all the time. The spontaneous salivation continued, increasing with each experimental séance’s progression. At the same time, the animal remained mobile, struggling with the stand in all possible manners, scratching its floor, biting and bumping against its frame, etc. Of course, this was accompanied by short breath that increased by the end of each experiment.

In the beginning of a séance, with the first conditioned stimuli applied, the dog immediately took its proffered food but later, it either took it after more and more time after the feeder had slid out, or even started to eat only after a small portion had been forcefully introduced to its mouth. We applied ourselves to clarifying the issue, what was the reason for this motor and secretory reaction that excited the dog in the given circumstance? Many dogs are excited by having to stand on a table. As soon as the stand is removed to the floor, they calm down. In this particular case, however, the dog’s excited state did not change. Some dogs cannot stand seclusion. They are calm as long as a researcher is in the same room with them. As soon as he leaves the room, they get excited, strain, and cry. With our dog, this was irrelevant.

Could this agile animal need mobility? As soon as it was let out from the stand, the dog lay down by researcher’s feet. Could its ties, their friction, and such irritate it? The ties were slackened but the matter remained unresolved. When free of the stand, the dog did not oppose even a tightly drawn rope around its neck. We varied experimental conditions greatly. The only thing became clear; the dog could not stand its restriction of movement freedom.

We had a clear-cut, well-isolated physiological reaction, the dog’s freedom reflex. This reflex in a dog only one of us saw previously in such a pure form, and developed with such persistence. However, the researcher who had seen many hundreds or even thousands of dogs before could not appreciate the case due to the absence of a correct notion of the subject at that time. Apparently, the persistence of the reflex in these two cases was a result of a rare concurrence of several generations preceding our subjects, both on the male and female sides that enjoyed complete freedom in our household.

Of course, the freedom reflex is a general condition, an overall animal reaction, and one of the most important innate reflexes. Without it, any smallest hindrance met by an animal in its way would completely interrupt the course of its life. Moreover, we do know well how all animals usually deprived of their freedom aim at liberating themselves, especially, of course, the wild ones who found themselves in human captivity for the first time. However, this common fact has never before been designated in a correct manner, and has never been accounted for in the system of innate reflexes.

In order to emphasize the innate reflex character of our reaction, we continued the subject’s studies. Although the conditioned reflex tested on that particular dog was the food reflex, as it was stated above, that is, the dog received food in exchange for a conditioned stimulation while in the stand without previously eating for 24 hours, it was not enough to hinder or overcome its freedom reflex. It was even stranger because we already knew in our laboratory about conditioned destructive food reflexes when a food reaction developed as a response to applying a strong electrical damage to the skin. Usually, it provoked a powerful defensive reaction but in conjunction with feeding the animal, the defensive reaction was replaced with the food one without any problem.

Can a food reflex be weaker than a freedom reflex? Why does not the food reflex win the freedom reflex now? However, it cannot be overlooked that there was the difference between our previous experimentations with the conditioned destructive reflex and the present ones. Previously, the destructive and food reflexes almost concurred; now, the food stimulation of the mouth took place for a short time only, with great intervals, and the freedom reflex remained active for the duration of the experiment, and it was stronger the more the animal remained in the stand. This was why we decided, while continuing our conditioned reflexes experiments as before, to give the animal its daily food portion only while it remained in the stand, too.

At first, for about ten days, the dog ate poorly, and got quite thin. Later, though, it began eating more until it devoured the entire portion. Still, it took about three months to stifle clear manifestations of the freedom reflex during our experiments with the conditioned reflexes.

One by one, separate parts of this reflex disappeared. It should be noted, though, that a small trace of this reflex must have remained, appearing in the form of the conditioned reflex still remaining insignificant and unstable while in this particular dog it should have been major and firm, with all good reasons. It looked like it was obviously hindered by the remainders of the freedom reflex. It is also interesting to note that by the end of that period, the dog itself jumped on the experimental table.

Nevertheless, we did not stop at that result, and cancelled the dog’s fundamental feeding while in the stand. About a month and a half later, the freedom reflex, on the backdrop of the continuing conditioned reflexes experimentation, started to re-emerge. In the end, it reached its initial force. It seems to us that, apart from substantiating the utmost stability of this reflex, which testifies to its innateness, this reflex return eradicates all other interpretations of the reaction described by us here.

It was only after four months and a half more, when the dog had been being kept in a separate kennel where it had been fed, the freedom reflex was finally suppressed. Only after this, the dog could be used without any hindrance, like any other test dog of ours.

There seems to be no doubt that the systematic study of the innate animal reactions pool will only facilitate our greater understanding of ourselves, and our developing the ability for our personal self-government. By the last, we mean this, for example. It is evident that on a par with the freedom reflex, there exists the slavery reflex. It is a well-known fact that puppies and small dogs often fall on their backs before larger dogs. This signifies a surrender, a throwing oneself at the mercy of the strongest, analogous to the human kneeling or prostrating. This slavery reflex, of course, is justified by certain life circumstances. A deliberate position of passivity taken by the weakest naturally leads to a drop in the strongest’s aggressive reaction while the weakest’s resistance, even the feeble one, only increases the strongest’s destructive excitement.